The Role of the Lake

The Lake and its Water

A view of Blackburn lake from within the Sanctuary.

In the early days before the lake was formed, we can assume that a little creek gurgled down the valley from Mitcham to Blackburn en route to the Yarra River. Along the way, particularly in winter and spring, it would have been fed by many rivulets and streams. Some of the gullies formed by these small waterways can still be seen as you walk around the lake today. In summer, the creek may have dried up at times.

The creek was dammed in the 1880s and the valley flooded to form the lake, which has a steep embankment on its western side and swampy edges along the eastern side. Though initially about fifty feet deep where the creek had been mined for antimony, recent studies show that during intervening years the build-up of silt has gradually reduced the depth of the lake.

In the 1920s diving towers were erected and swimming lessons were held at the lake. The water must have been much cleaner than it is now! The Blackburn Swimming Club was forced to close in 1931 due to vandalism of its facilities.

During the 50s and 60s the lake became a dumping ground for rubbish, and the old car bodies and other rubbish that reportedly still lay at the bottom would have leached acids, lead and hydrocarbons into the water over the years. Current regular water-quality testing, however, indicates that such pollutants have been flushed out of the lake.

In 1962 the dam wall in Lake Rd was built by the MMBW to form a retarding basin to prevent flooding further down Gardiners Creek; and the picturesque Lake Rd Bridge (as shown below and on our postcards available from the reception area in the Visitor Centre) was demolished in 1965.
Before this, residents recall having to change shoes on the north side of the Lake Rd Bridge and don gumboots to cross “boggy hollow,” as it was locally known!

Lake Road Bridge, Blackburn
(reproduced from ‘Blackburn – A Picturesque History’ by Robin da Costa,Pioneer Design Studio Pty Ltd, Lilydale)
Built c. 1888 of handmade Blackburn bricks. Demolished 1965